Touring drummer payscale?

BigBelly

Member
Just wondering what the average touring drummer makes. Lots of variables, I know, but is a touring drummer making a teachers salary or driving a Bently?
 

Ethan01

Senior Member
Haha, for the majority, neither! Though you don't have to pay rent, I imagine you have no idea how much it costs to actually rent one of those tour buses to begin with.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
You're not going to get a good answer, I don't think.

Very few bands can say "this is what we charge to play for the night". Usually you're going with a cut of the house profits, or frankly, an amount that doesn't seem like too much when you split it 4 or 5 ways for the band.

In other words, it varies greatly. From band to band, state to state, venue to venue... Like anything else, it comes down to supply and demand. The more demand for YOUR music, the more you'll make. I think you see where this goes.
 
thats a really hard question to answer i think,
If its your own originals band probably not to much unless your band is touring internationally but if you were a session guy playing for say beyonce or someone on a similar scale i think they would make a very comfortable living.

It would vary greatly from case to case.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Yeah, it's impossible to say. You'd have to qualify what level of 'touring' you're talking about - van? motorhome? star coach? Lear jet? - and even then it would be hard to say what's average. Someone could make $500/wk, or $5000/wk, or much more. It really depends on the act.

And it also depends on the drummer's participation in the act. Is he a hired gun on salary, or maybe paid a percentage based on attendance and merch sales? Or is he contractually part of the band who shares directly in the profits as well as the losses? And although it's not so common anymore, is there label support where the players get their salary, but losses are recupable against record sales, so they lose money on unit sales?

Also, few people will actually tell you what they make.

Bermuda
 

BigBelly

Member
Thanks for the replies, guys! I was sitting in drum lessons with my kid and his instructor (also a friend of mine) and we were just chatting about it so I thought I'd ask you guys. Like I said, many variables that add to this question, I am definitely aware of that. I listen to a fair amount of Country and it really seems like Country music has a lot of the so-called hired guns. Much of the Country world seems to revolve around the singer and most of the bands are named after the singer even though the singer may not be the songwriter. In those cases, it seems like the singer gets all the glory and the rest of the band (although equals in my eyes) seems like hired guns. I was thinking of them when I posted this question.

I guess I was wondering if they can live as full time drummers in those type situations (financially) or if they also flip burgers to help pay the bills. I would assume that touring drummers playing in arenas to 20,000+ several days a week are making a solid living but, I don't know...... It was just an interesting conversation, that's all. Definately not looking for someones exact level of income, not being nosy at all. Thanks for the help.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Of people I know who are lucky enough to make a living touring, it varies from "couldn't make ends meet without help of family" up to "bought a house off of touring income" and all points in between.

Talent has little to do it with it, the tour does. Even if said person signs on for a set weekly salary, it's subject to change, up or down, depending on how well the tour goes. Some artists get better known, allowing said drummer to negotiate a significant raise. I've seen friends have their pay cut because the tour didn't do so well, and either management told them they had to take a pay cut, or the tour was just plain canceled 1/2 way through, and it's "get off the bus, here's a plane ticket home."
 

Joe Morris

DRUMMERWORLD PRO DRUMMER
Bermuda nailed it as usual, and the bottom line is most of us never , ever discuss money.

Joe
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Thanks for the replies, guys! I was sitting in drum lessons with my kid and his instructor (also a friend of mine) and we were just chatting about it so I thought I'd ask you guys. Like I said, many variables that add to this question, I am definitely aware of that. I listen to a fair amount of Country and it really seems like Country music has a lot of the so-called hired guns. Much of the Country world seems to revolve around the singer and most of the bands are named after the singer even though the singer may not be the songwriter. In those cases, it seems like the singer gets all the glory and the rest of the band (although equals in my eyes) seems like hired guns. I was thinking of them when I posted this question.

I guess I was wondering if they can live as full time drummers in those type situations (financially) or if they also flip burgers to help pay the bills. I would assume that touring drummers playing in arenas to 20,000+ several days a week are making a solid living but, I don't know...... It was just an interesting conversation, that's all. Definately not looking for someones exact level of income, not being nosy at all. Thanks for the help.
I've heard the $500/week figure in conversations about the modern country music scene, as a place to start for signed artists and singers that are trying to gain a wider audience. For independent artists, the band may work for free, and hope to be reimbursed as part of a signing bonus, when (if) a record deal offer is made. A typical independent artist can't afford to pay anyone's salary out of pocket, but there are exceptions.

The drummers who are making $500/week on tours are hoping to go out again on the next tour ASAP. They can probably scrape by for a few months without working, but usually pick up temporary work in the service sector, where high turnover is expected.

For a platinum-selling artist on arena tours, yes, a drummer will make a comfortable living, and is sometimes "on retainer", so that he get some payment when the artist is not touring or in the studio. In the country scene, long relationships between band and artist are fairly common, where the artist is older and has more control of the business.
 

uniongoon

Gold Member
Years ago, 1990? I played in a David Bowie tribute, our second set was a replica of the serious moonlight tour. Back then we were told Bowie's musician were getting $350/week, and of course they paid for nothing, food, transport lodging etc. would have been included. Not alot of dough, and is backed up by Earl Slick claiming after that tour he had to sell some guitars to buy groceries. Life in the big time not all it's cracked up to be.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Years ago, 1990? I played in a David Bowie tribute, our second set was a replica of the serious moonlight tour. Back then we were told Bowie's musician were getting $350/week, and of course they paid for nothing, food, transport lodging etc. would have been included. Not alot of dough, and is backed up by Earl Slick claiming after that tour he had to sell some guitars to buy groceries. Life in the big time not all it's cracked up to be.
There are several such stories in the business, with the artist usually telling the players that the respect they'll gain for playing with him/her will pay off in other ways, and that other players kill for the gig. Many players take the gig, and if they don't, there are indeed others who will.

If McCartney asked me to play for $350/wk, I'd certainly do it! Not Bowie though, I'd need $500/wk from him. :)

Bermuda
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
If McCartney asked me to play I would definitely pay him $350.00 a week as well, even more. Isn't that the modern way of doing things, Pay to Play?
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Years ago, 1990? I played in a David Bowie tribute, our second set was a replica of the serious moonlight tour. Back then we were told Bowie's musician were getting $350/week, and of course they paid for nothing, food, transport lodging etc. would have been included. Not alot of dough, and is backed up by Earl Slick claiming after that tour he had to sell some guitars to buy groceries. Life in the big time not all it's cracked up to be.
Wow. I was getting $220/week to play on a Carnival ship that year. We were really envious of the Princess musicians who I think were getting $350.
 

zakhopper316

Silver Member
Wow. I was getting $220/week to play on a Carnival ship that year. We were really envious of the Princess musicians who I think were getting $350.
I am seriously considering doing this when I get out of music school. It seems to be a really good gig, can you tell me more about it? A big deal breaker for me would be my cabin. Did you get to stay in a guest stateroom? If I hadvto stay below deck in those little rooms I would probably stay home. However if I was offered an inside cabin on deck 5 or something I would do it. I know you get to wear plain clothes and go to the bars and restaurants when your not playing which is nice, but I would have to have a real room. Can you tell me about life on board? Maybe PM me a contact for carnival? Also do u have options for how long your tour on board is?

Thanks, Zach
 
M

mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
From what I've read on this board and from knowing technicians on cruise ships it's most likely that you will get a small, shared cabin.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The guys I know who've done cruises say they're treated like crew. Which is not to say is bad, but certainly not on a par with the paying passengers.

But a gig is a gig, no? Not every cruise or tour or club is luxurious. I played a cool but divey punkabilly club tonight, funky even by local gig standards and a million miles away from what I do with Weird Al. But I do it and other gigs around town because I like to play drums.

As the actor doing bit parts and small productions says, "I'm an actor - I act." Same for me, except the acting part.

Bermuda
 

groovemaster_flex

Silver Member
It all depends on who you are playing with, the kind of gigs you're doing, how often you're gigging, is the band signed or not, financial banking, how many records, merchandise, are you a hired gun or are you a member of the band.

I toured with a small act out of Ontario for a week and made a grand total of $50 dollars. Granted, I was given a bed in the tour van (the back had been converted into 3 beds) and was given $40 dollars a day to cover my living costs (like food) and they covered any long distance calls or roaming texts that I had covered. I know musicians who make nothing and I know musicians who make a killing. It all depends on the gig, man!
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I am seriously considering doing this when I get out of music school. It seems to be a really good gig, can you tell me more about it? A big deal breaker for me would be my cabin. Did you get to stay in a guest stateroom? If I hadvto stay below deck in those little rooms I would probably stay home. However if I was offered an inside cabin on deck 5 or something I would do it. I know you get to wear plain clothes and go to the bars and restaurants when your not playing which is nice, but I would have to have a real room. Can you tell me about life on board? Maybe PM me a contact for carnival? Also do u have options for how long your tour on board is?

Thanks, Zach
It depends on the company and the gig. Generally you are treated better than crew and there are not too many restrictions or non-musical duties to deal with. Usually you share a crew room with another musician or staff member- if you've ever lived in a college dorm, it's about the same experience. If you want a nice room usually SE Asia hotels are the way to go. Anyway, it's a great way to pay some dues- a dying concept- and get you accustomed to the idea that your work is worth money- I recommend doing it and not worrying about conditions too much. I'll send you a PM about it- in the mean time, here's a semi-ironic thing I wrote about it...
 

zakhopper316

Silver Member
It depends on the company and the gig. Generally you are treated better than crew and there are not too many restrictions or non-musical duties to deal with. Usually you share a crew room with another musician or staff member- if you've ever lived in a college dorm, it's about the same experience. If you want a nice room usually SE Asia hotels are the way to go. Anyway, it's a great way to pay some dues- a dying concept- and get you accustomed to the idea that your work is worth money- I recommend doing it and not worrying about conditions too much. I'll send you a PM about it- in the mean time, here's a semi-ironic thing I wrote about it...
Thanks Todd, I heard from a friend it was much better than being a crew member as far as your free time goes. And that link of the page u wrote was great!
 
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